Infidelity impacts many relationships. Contrary to popular belief, infidelity can even happen in good relationships.
There are multiple types of affairs that can negatively impact a relationship. The affair can be sexual, resulting from one partner’s secret sexual interactions outside of the relationship. Alternatively, the affair can be emotional, in which one partner develops a secret emotional connection or romantic bond outside of the relationship. Due to inappropriate usage of social media and the internet, literature regarding infidelity has gained a new term: cyber affairs. These involve the exchanging of sexual messages, nude pictures, and online sex. Whether it is emotional or physical, the affair is usually defined within the relationship by the couple's preestablished relationship rules and expectations of loyalty.
The consequences of an affair usually cause an eruption within the relationship. After learning about an affair, partners can have difficulty deciding if they would like to continue or end the relationship. Even if the couple chooses to continue their relationship, an affair can have a severely negative impact on both partners. Sometimes, injured partners might seek revenge. Regardless of the circumstances, an affair triggers an emotional rollercoaster. The couple might have difficulty dealing with intense emotions and become trapped in destructive patterns. Moreover, affairs can weaken the couple’s bond and damage their trust.
The severity of the affair depends on many factors: who the person is (someone known or a random person), duration of the affair (long term or one time), place of the affair (home or elsewhere), lies told to hide the affair, what was going on in the relationship at that time (pregnancy, death of a loved one, illness), and how the partner found out (witness, heard from someone else, disclosed by their partner).
How Affairs Effect Relationships
Many times, learning about your partner's affair can be traumatic and lead to PTSD. The affair can cause rumination, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, overwhelming emotions, feeling out of control, losing trust, seeing the partner as an enemy, seeing the relationship negatively, and feeling numb, angry, and embarrassed.
Dealing with jealousy, anger, and resentment while trying to continue the relationship and forgive someone who hurt you can be difficult. Many times, the partner who was cheated on might feel like the rug has been pulled out from beneath their feet. An affair can be destructive to the feelings of trust in the relationship. When trust is broken, the foundation of the relationship has been shaken. It is not only the affair itself; many times, the lies told to hide the affair also hurt partners and damage trust. One partner loses their credibility, resulting in constant arguments.
Finding an answer to ‘why did this happen?’ usually hurts as much as the affair itself. Partners start to experience many aspects of feeling not good enough about themselves; they may feel helpless, incompetent, and inadequate, blaming themselves for what happened.
It is difficult to recover after an affair, and most couples who deal with infidelity can struggle. Rebuilding trust is a crucial step in affair recovery. Coping strategies—such as checking each other’s phones, following locations, and calling on FaceTime to maintain trust—might help at the beginning, but in a short time this causes tension, and the couple can find themselves overwhelmed.
After an affair, the couple is typically concerned about the future. They might not believe their relationship will work, or they might be suspicious of each other and become worried that the affair will repeat.
Many times, couple share their experience with others to seek support. Partners might feel guilt and shame when they see the hurt they have caused. When children or extended family members learn about the affair, it usually causes more chaos. Partners might keep some of the information hidden; in time, the injured partner might discover new information about the affair that causes more issues. It is important to provide a safe space for a couple to talk about an affair. Exploring what made the relationship vulnerable to an affair can help both partners gain a deeper understanding and improve the relationship.
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